Vernon Bogdanor writes: Negotiations on Britain’s withdrawal from the EU have now begun in earnest. They are required, according to article 50, to “take account of the framework” for Britain’s “future relationship with the union”. But what is that future relationship to be?
Economically, the EU comprises three elements: a free trade area; a customs union (an area with a common trade policy and a common tariff); and an internal market in which non-tariff barriers to trade (regulations, standards and the like) are harmonised and, indeed, reduced.
Theresa May has declared that the UK will not seek to remain in the single market or the customs union. Campaigning for remain in 2016, she said of the single market: “We would have to make concessions in order to access it; these concessions could well be about accepting EU regulations over which we would have no say, making financial contributions just as we do now, accepting free movement rules just as we do now, or quite possibly all three combined.”
Both membership of the single market and a customs agreement would require us to accept much EU legislation without being able to help formulate it – and not just existing legislation, but any legislation the EU chooses to enact in future. We would become, in effect, a satellite of the EU, relying on the European commission or other member states to defend our interests. Such an outcome – regulation without representation – proved unacceptable to Americans in the 18th century. It would probably prove equally unacceptable to the British people in the 21st.
So, when May said that Brexit means Brexit, she was merely drawing out the constitutional logic of the referendum decision. For there is no logic to a “soft” Brexit – a form of withdrawal that mimics EU membership, but without the influence that comes from membership. The ultimate choice we face is either “hard” Brexit or remain. [Continue reading…]